On Adding Autistic People to HV

Disclosure: I’m neurotypical and allistic.

Several months ago, a resource came across my desk: “Safeguarding autistic girls” by Carly Jones. In determining its classification I landed where almost all books on autistic people have been classed: RC553.A88 this is a medical number, the full hierarchy being: Internal medicine—Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry—Psychiatry—Specific pathological states, A-Z—Autism. Asperger’s syndrome

The problem is that this isn’t a medical book including brain scans, and psychological tests, pathologies and treatment protocols, etc. — it’s a social sciences book discussing the unique challenges that autistic girls may face as they navigate society.

Doing further investigating of the RC553.A88 shelflist, I quickly found that many books classed there were non-medical, including:

  • The Asperger love guide : ‡b a practical guide for adults with Asperger’s syndrome to seeking, establishing and maintaining successful relationships [2005928234]
  • Something different about dad : ‡b how to live with your amazing Asperger parent [2016022425]
  • The journal of best practices : ‡b a memoir of marriage, Asperger syndrome, and one man’s quest to be a better husband [2011013986]
  • A field guide to earthlings : ‡b an autistic/asperger view of neurotypical behavior ; covers nuances of friendship, dating, small talk, interpersonal conflicts, image learning styles, social communication, common sense, white lies, and much more! [2010918011]
  • The complete guide to becoming an autism friendly professional : ‡b working with individuals, groups, and organizations [2020055471]

I approached my liaison in the policy office to discuss the possibility of adding an entire range in H [the social sciences class] for works which discuss autism and autistic people from a social perspective: biographies, problems they face, working lives, relationship lives, social assistance, communities, etc. — akin to how you can find numbers in R [medicine] on blindness and deafness as medical conditions, but also in H for their social treatment.

My liaison was on board and worked with me to help construct the range, and where to place it: we settled on placing it within HV1570 whose hierarchy is: Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology—Protection, assistance and relief—Special classes—People with disabilities—Developmentally disabled

This is what I want to acknowledge. I know that placing all social-science work on autism and autistic people inherently under a category of “special classes of people who need protection, assistance, relief”, and furthermore calling all of them “developmentally disabled” isn’t the ideal solution, it may not even be a good solution! Unfortunately this is how works on disabled people from a social perspective are classed in LC classification — and the current medical literature describes autistic people as “developmentally disabled” which is what LC classification relies on when making decisions about hierarchies.

Much digital and physical ink has been spilled on LC classification’s biases. I haven’t done anything to correct that, but I certainly hope I haven’t made things worse. In my mind it’s better to develop a range for the non-medical treatment of autism and autistic people, even if its still a pathologizing area of the classification system. One day when the classification system can acknowledge classes of persons less pejoratively — It’ll be easier to move things if the range is already created and in use. This is my hope anyway!